Chapter Thirty-two (spoilers hidden!)
Time for my second favorite chapter! (The first, if you recall, was the one where Raoden led Karata to the king’s palace.)
There are so many things going on in this chapter that I don’t quite know where to start. I guess I’ll begin with the Mysteries. I drew part of this religion, including the name, from the mystery cults of ancient Greece. I added the ritual sacrifices to give them a bit of zing. You’ll get a little bit more of an explanation of the Mysteries, and why someone might decide to join one, in a later Sarene chapter.
As I’ve noted before, religion–especially its dark side–is a theme in this book. I don’t think I could have covered this subject well in the book without including a look at cult mentality. Now, I’ll admit that ‘cult’ is a word we bandy about too frequently in religious discussions. It has been noted that Christianity started out as a kind of cult, and it seems that many consider any unorthodox religion to be a ‘cult.’
To me, however, a cult is something that twists who you are, changing you into a shadow of what you used to be. I firmly believe that you can judge a religion by the effects it produces in its practitioners. Does it make them better people? If so, then there’s a good chance that the religion is worth something. Does it turn them into people who sacrifice their own servants in an effort to make evil spirits come and kill their daughters in law? If so, well. . .you might want to stay away from that one.
Anyway, the Mysteries were–in my mind–a natural outgrowth of the Mystical Jesker religion. Like Galladon is always saying, they’re NOT the same religion. The Mysteries are a perversion and simplificication of Jesker teachings. Jesker looks to the Dor–the power behind all things–and tries to understand it. The Mysteries treat the Dor like some kind of force to be manipulated. (Which actually, is what AonDor does. . . .)
Anyway, onto the chapter. Sarene is brought to task here a little bit at the beginning of it. I kind of like this scene–she might be a good leader, but she’s more impulsive, and more emotional, than Raoden. This has its good effects, but it does mean she has a little bit more of a potential to brood.
By the way–Roial’s observation that people who ‘turn away from a religion’ being its strongest opponents actually applies to a lot of things in life, I think. You’ll find no opponent more bitter than the one who used to consider himself your friend.
Of course their constellations form Aons. What else would you expect?
There’s a tie for best line of the chapter, in my opinion. The first one goes to Sarene, and it’s in her thoughts. “The problem with being clever,” Sarene thought with a sigh, “is that everyone assumes you’re always planning something.” This was an original line from the first draft, and it’s always struck me as a rather true statement. The other line goes to Roial, and it was actually added in one of the last drafts. “Mean young men are trivial, and kindly old men boring.”
Sarene’s extended internal narrative about Gareo remains in the book despite a slight dissatisfaction on my part with the section. It feels a little expository, and we’ve gotten implications regarding these things before. I’m not sure that we really learn anything new about Sarene’s character here, we just get a few specifics about her past.
However, one of the nice things about a book like this–or, even, books in general, as opposed to movies –is that you don’t have to worry TOO much about every scene and moment. I don’t have to shave seconds quite as intensely as a film-maker might, or even shave words as much as an author of a shorter work might. I can afford a few diversions like this one, even if they ramble just a bit.
Showing Roial’s Seon was important, I think. First off, I wanted to give some evidence that there are indeed Seons in Arelon who aren’t mad. (So far, I believe that the only named Seons we’ve seen in the book are Ashe and Ien.) Secondly, Opa is a nice little foreshadowing–it’s through him that Ashe manages to contact Sarene’s friends. Actually, Sarene’s interaction with Ashe is quite interesting in this chapter, as it’s somewhat more strained–and therefore a bit more true–than what we’ve seen before. When under stress, Ashe isn’t quite so accommodating and straightforward as normal–but he still does retain Sarene’s best interests at heart.
Some notes about the party. First off, I had a lot of fun sticking the sickening young couples into this book. I’m not sure why I like to make fun of them like I do, but I certainly have a bit of fun in the Sarene chapters. Ah, poor Shuden. He didn’t hold on as well as he thought he might. Anyway, the contrast here is very nice for Sarene, and I like how she and Roial move through the party, mingling. There’s just a. . .natural feel about some of the scenes in this book that I haven’t quite been able to capture in my other works.